Is the Beach Safe? Here are 6 Dangers and Diseases You Might Encounter During Your Beach Trip

When you think of dangers at the beach, what comes to mind? Sharks and sunburn might be the first two thoughts you have. And while sunburn is common, there are easy ways to prevent it. And it’s extremely unlikely you’ll encounter a shark during your beach trip. But there are some hidden dangers that could be surrounding you at the beach, including diseases, that may make your exciting day trip take a quick downturn. Here are seven things you should be aware of next time you head to the water.

Bandon beach Oregon

The beach is fun and beautiful, but it can be dangerous. | MBRubin/Getty Images

1. Man of War jellyfish are becoming more common

The dangers vary depending on where you’re going to the beach, but on the East Coast, potentially deadly Portuguese Man of War jellyfish have been washing up more frequently. In Cape May County, New Jersey, a fully intact Man of War washed up on the beach — and these jellyfish have a dangerous sting. Men of War have tentacles that can grow 25 feet long. And if you encounter one in the open ocean, it can wrap its tentacles around you and sting you massively. If enough of the venom gets into your body, it can be fatal.

2. You can get a hookworm infection from playing in the sand

A young boy was on a mission trip in Miami when he was buried in the sand for fun — a common thing friends and family do when they’re together at the beach. But his fun in the sun turned into a parasitic problem when he realized tiny hookworms had burrowed in his feet. Hookworms are parasites that dig into your skin and feed on your blood, causing serious pain and itchiness. The hookworms can also cause anemia. They are typically treated with medication. It’s hard to imagine the sand can be dangerous, but this is a wake-up call to not bury anyone deeply in the sand.

3. If you don’t listen to the life guards, you may get caught in a rip current

Rip currents are nothing to mess with. They typically show up during inclement weather, but even a storm out at sea can cause rough currents along the shore. According to weather.gov, a rip current is a channeled current of water that flows away from the shore. There is a common misconception that rip currents pull people under; rather, they actually pull people away from land. But a combination of panic and exhaustion means the swimmer can’t always get back to shore, and it results in a drowning. More than 100 people drown each year from rip currents, and more than 80% of lifeguard rescues are due to rip currents. If the life guards deem the water unsafe, listen to them.

4. If you enter the water with an open wound, you may contract a flesh-eating disease

Vibrio vulnificus are harmful bacteria that live naturally in coastal waters. If you enter the water with an open wound, you risk contracting the infection. Although it is rare, it is extremely serious, and can lead to a flesh-eating disease and possibly death. The ocean is full of different animals and creatures, and bacteria run rampant. Never enter the water with an open wound. You’re more likely to contract an infection in the summer when the coastal waters are warmer. The bacteria can also be found in seafood, such as raw oysters.

5. A sting ray may have burrowed itself in the sand beneath your feet — and can strike at any time

It’s not sharks you need to worry about; it’s sting rays. While swimming beside sting rays is typically harmless, the rays do tend to burrow themselves beneath the sand. If you accidentally step on one, it may use its stinger as a defense mechanism and sting you. Sting rays typically only attack when provoked, so if you accidentally come across one, it could be dangerous. Famous crocodile hunter Steve Irwin died from a string ray’s sting back in 2006. And you’re far more likely to encounter one of these in the water than a shark.

6. Another burn to be aware of: Sand burns

It’s no surprise that sunburn is a danger at the beach, but you may not be aware that the sand can actually burn, too. It usually only happens in very warm climates, such as the southern United States, but severe burns from the sand are possible. When walking to the beach, always make sure to keep your shoes on. One woman in Australia had to be rushed to the burn unit because she ran across such immensely hot sand.

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